Thursday, September 26, 2013

Have You Seen This Show ?

Very rarely will I find myself in the App Store on my iPad just searching for new apps.  In fact, this has probably only happened 3 or 4 times in my iLifetime.  One of those times I apparently found an app called Crackle, which is really just another digital media app that shows movies, tv shows, and some lengthier videos ... and ONE really cool show that you've probably never seen before.

If you like Jerry Seinfeld, then you should download the app (it's free) IF ONLY for the access it provides you to his new show titled "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee."  Each webisode lasts between 8 and 22 minutes with the same basic flow: Jerry introduces you to a unique "car"; he calls a comedian buddy to set up a coffee date; picks up the comedian; drives them in the car to get coffee (and always food, etc.); they talk, laugh, joke; and Jerry drives them home again.  Each webisode features a different comedian (from Brian Regan to David Letterman and Sarah Silverman to Chris Rock) and they all have different high and low points of humor.

I think what I like most is that the concept is so fresh and new.  It is a slice of reality television, but twisted in that you're watching celebrities in everyday conversation with one another.  The humor is so raw and conversational that I am just hooked ... waiting for new webisodes ... waiting ...

Song Of The Day:
There can be no better song for today than the unsung smash hit "A Proper Cup Of Coffee" by the (kid's group?) Trout Fishing In America.  I have been trying to find a way to feature them in this blog for over a year now, and finally I have the right combination of things: blog post topic, great song, and youtube video link of the aforementioned song that I don't have to create myself!  It's a sing-along song so join in!  :)


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Do You Think We'll Make It ?

Seeing as this probably was the final round of golf for me this year, I feel it acceptable to have three blog posts devoted to the 18-hole round.  Overkill?  Maybe.  But in fairness, the experiences Aaron and I had during this wacky day (I totally skipped over the whole "replace a water heater and deal with flooding in the basement" stuff) easily justify each of these posts.

I've already mentioned (in my last post) that the golf carts were to stay on the cart path - no exceptions!  So the video linked below was bound to happen eventually.

Here are a few pictures of some of the "bridges" on the cart path:

And here is the video of Aaron driving us safely across:

In hindsight, perhaps it wasn't a good idea to let him drive the back 9!  :)

Song Of The Day:
Scotland is considered the birthplace of golfing.  And that area of the world is known for being more green (see: covered in water all the time) than our fair city.  So as we enjoyed this soggy landscape I found myself humming "The Water Is Wide" every time we neared one of these "bridges."  I found this version (by the Celtic Women of course!) to share in today's post.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How Wet Was It ?

Due to the heavy rains we have been experiencing these past few weeks here in the Colorado Springs metropolitan area, our normally dry landscape has been subjected to all kinds of circumstances usually reserved for more humid parts of the country.

One example was yesterday's golfing experience at Antler Creek golf course in Falcon, CO.  For our 18-hole round, Aaron and I were driving a cart, which had to remain on the cart path (to avoid getting stuck or leaving tread marks across the soggy course) for the entire round - no exceptions!  Through the first 9 holes, I felt the squishing under my shoes as we traversed fairways and greens, but in my mind I still wondered why the golf carts couldn't cross the landscape.  That is, until our experience on the 11th hole.

The tee box affords a breathtaking view of the front range, including majestic Pikes Peak.  Aaron had "honors" so he prepared for and took his first swing of the hole.  The ball traveled several hundred feet ... almost straight UP in the air!  But at least it was headed to the fairway so it would be easy to find, right?!  When it landed a few seconds later we just heard a thump.  After my tee shot, we drove down to find Aaron's ball ... and nearly drove past it.  Why?  See for yourself in the pictures below.

Being the gentleman I am (and claiming my own made-up "poor course conditions" rule), I did not make Aaron take the standard one-stroke penalty for retrieving his ball.  However, he did have a hard time hitting his second shot since we were both laughing so hard!

Song Of The Day:
Inspired by the picture and experience described above, please enjoy Sugarland's hit song "Stuck Like Glue"
Thankfully Aaron rescued his ball before the glue set up!  :)


Monday, September 23, 2013

Was This The Last Round ?

Sometimes an 8:20am tee time can seem like a late start.  And other times (see: this morning) it can seem like whoever set that time was an idiot.  When the weather has been nice, with temperatures staying very comfortable throughout the night, you can go golfing as soon as the sun rises and it will be just wonderful.  The weather has NOT been balmy lately, and the further east you travel, the more wind you will be forced to enjoy.

That said, I am so glad Aaron convinced me it was still going to be a great day golfing ... because it really was!  But the chill in the air, the wind (how is it always) in our faces, and the soggy course (just wait for my next two posts!) all but convinced me that this will be my last round of golf for the season.  The golf clubs have not been hung up just yet, but it certainly can't be long now.

Song Of The Day:
I know that I have featured Boyz II Men several times in this portion of my posts ... but they are really good and their songs just fit so well!  The "End Of The Road" is likely here for this season of golfing, so consider this an ode to my golf clubs ... until next year my friends!  :)


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Where Is Everybody ?

Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to attend an Air Force Academy football game.  The opponent was Wyoming (whose uniforms were actually much better than the last time I saw them play decades ago).

I say "opportunity" because I had won 2 tickets (including some food vouchers) from a special giveaway at my work.  I also say "opportunity" in the slightly sarcastic sense that ... to the right is a picture of the whole group that came to attend the game.  20 tickets were given away.  Throughout the game, I saw only two other people in our section from work.

Oh well ... it was an exciting game for a little while (the home team began to lose very badly midway through the second quarter) but the late start (8:30pm MDT) and cold weather caused my buddy Tony and I to call it quits before it was all said and done.

Song Of The Day:
I am sure many people have actually heard this Bonus Track single title "All By Myself" which was at the very end of the Dookie album by Green Day.  I remember letting the CD play on repeat shuffle in my room in Greeley, CO.  The music stopped eventually (or so I thought) but I was so busy doing whatever I was doing (probably arranging my hats on the wall) that I didn't notice.  That is, until I started to hear this song begin to play.  The irony of timing was not lost on me then.  I laughed and laughed.  Good one boys, good one!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Male Version Of Hooters ?

I find it fun to take a simple comment or singular item and build a huge experience and/or conversation out of it.  I am sure it drives my wife crazy sometimes, but it also provides quite a bit of entertainment value ... and I would argue that it bolsters creative thinking to boot!

Aaron's wife Britney packed this shirt
for him to wear on their last stay-over
at our house.  He was thrilled!  :)
The image to the right (thanks Aaron S for modeling the "starting point" so well) was the genesis for a creative conversation between 4 arguably intelligent adults:

Things we discussed:
 - why isn't there a male version of Hooters?
 - could the place be called "Stud Muffins"?
 - would the waiters wear tight t-shirts and jeans?
 - could the menu be centered around more breakfast items (muffins, etc.)?
 - would people call the wait staff "Muffin Men" to compete with Hooters Gals?
 - could a partnership with Hooters be possible?
 - what would be the signature dish (like wings at Hooters)?

All told, the conversation lasted at least 30 minutes, which may not seem like much but I suggest you try and talk for that long about a random subject and see how long it is before you run out of reasonably intelligent things to say.

Song Of The Day:
No matter what happens, it is evident that the theme song at this restaurant would have to be "Whatta Man" by Salt N Pepa.  Ladies, just envision yourself at Stud Muffins with all your girlfriends enjoying a great breakfast to this tune.  Yeah ... you're thinking about it now.


Friday, September 20, 2013

How Spoiled Are We ?

Today's post is deliberately short to help me avoid getting to wordy on my soapbox vent about how we have become spoiled brats in this great nation of ours.
I may regret saying too much about this years from now, so I will make a few basic points.

First, we have it SO good!  Food, clothing, and shelter are our "basic" needs.  Odds are you do not actually know anyone who is currently without these things.  You may know of people who are, but if you are being truly honest, everyone you know has at least a satisfactory level of these things.

Second, I'll ask you to think about the last stressful decision you had to make.  What did it center around?  Were lives at stake?  Was someone's physical being in danger?  Or, was it more likely similar to the cartoon example below.  We tell ourselves we have stress but we are so spoiled we don't really know what that kind of stress is like.

Lastly, I have one final question.  How much of your day is spent working to earn your living?  Don't be so quick to claim 8 or 10 hours.  Stop and recalculate.  How many required breaks did you take during that workday?  How many other breaks did you justify taking?  When you break down the amount of time, I bet you will realize your per work hour wage is quite impressive, or at the very least is what MOST of the world would consider wealthy.

So let's remember how blessed we are before we hang our heads in sorrow and wallow in self pity.  In fact, if you have the time and the means to read this blog post, you are doing very well indeed.
Now find someone to thank for being so blessed!

Song Of The Day:
When I received my first MP3 player several years ago, it came with the typical set of pre-loaded songs.  Oddly enough, several of those songs became favorites of mine after just a minute or two of hearing them.  One of those was Guy Fosyth's tune "Long Long Time" which is perfect for this post.  In the song, Guy laments our spoiled ways as Americans.  For that reason alone I enjoyed the song, but the melody and refrain are quite good by themselves.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

What Is A Yiddeyl Tawr ?

Sometimes you need to stop whatever you are doing and just enjoy life.  You need to pull your head away from the tv or computer or video games or homework or chores or whatever else has your attention and just watch and listen.

I did that the other day, and was fortunate enough to take some video of what I enjoyed.  Below is a link to one video of my youngest daughter, Myra, doing her best to practice her piano (she has never had any lessons - obviously) and singing.  If you pay close enough attention, you will recognize the popular tune.  I know she is singing about a 'pider' and not 'dee yiddeyl tawr' but when you hear the one you can easily guess the other!

Myra singing Itsy Bitsy "Pider"  ... click the highlighted link ...

Song Of The Day:
Stevie Wonder's classic tune "Isn't She Lovely" is fitting for so many scenarios.  I haven't used it yet so here it is today.  Of course, I think Myra is amazingly lovely!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why Do I Like This Picture So Much ?

I am not a photographer.

This was drilled into my head through a Intro to Photography class I took in high school.
Oh sure any idiot with a camera can take pictures.  Now any idiot with a phone can too.  I am just one of those idiots, and yet ... every so often, I will snap a photo that really sticks with me.  The picture featured in today's post is an example of that.

I cannot really say why I like this one so much.  I have seen, and taken, many photos of sunlight behind clouds.  There are millions that are probably more beautiful than this one for a variety of reasons.  But I love this picture.
It has been the wallpaper on my phone now since the day I took it and every time I have considered changing it I just can't bring myself to do it.

Song Of The Day:
Although the clouds in this picture brought no rain, they sure look "Stormy" which is our song for the day.  This was one of a few hits for the group named Classics IV.  Check them out on wikipedia and you'll realize you actually have heard their music before.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why Are Most Birthdays NOT Special ?

Early on in my life it was apparent that certain birthdays are VERY special.

When I turned 8 I knew I was able to be baptized.

When I turned 10 it was cool because ... "double digits" !!!

Then 12 was cool because I was ordained to the Priesthood and began serving in many roles at church.  This continued at 14 and 16 and 18 in different roles.

13 is awesome for everyone because you're now a teenager!

16 is glorious for dual reasons: driving and dating!

At 18 you're considered an "adult" in most circumstances.

When I turned 19, I knew I would be able to serve a two-year mission (I was called to serve in Los Angeles and they were two of the most important years in my life!)

Most people love 21 because they're legally able to drink (but it's also a "I'm really an adult now" kind of age).

25 may not seem significant, but at that age you can rent a car ... very important if you like to travel.

And then ... life becomes a series of birthdays that are either insignificant or you really don't want to celebrate.

30 ... you're not a "kid" anymore.

40 ... you're "over the hill"

50 ... isn't it about time for more uncomfortable alone time with your doctor?

55 ... AARP, Senior Citizen Discount, etc. ... which all just means "you're too old to really enjoy anything anymore so we don't mind giving you perks because we know you won't use them."

65 (or 66 1/2 or 67 or 68 or ...) ... time for retirement?

75 ... you're still here?  can you still hear?

Sammy the Squirrel came by today to wish me well on
my birthday (on behalf of the whole animal kingdom).
And then around 90 people begin the countdown to 100 and bets are secretly placed on whether or not you'll make it to the century mark.  I haven't known many who have lived to be that old, but the few I can remember seemed to not care much either way about it.

So if you do the math, a person who lives to be 100 will have roughly 16 of those birthdays that mean something while the other 84 are just milestones where people are obligated to wish you well and you are, in turn, obligated to thank them for the kind words.

I say ... meh ... let's drop the pretending around every birthday needing to feel special.  Let's recognize and accept the fact that we (and others) really only care a very small percentage of the time.  But in exchange, when these birthdays DO come around, let's do them up right!

Song Of The Day:
The song "100 Years" by Five For Fighting comes to mind ... Although the song doesn't highlight the birthdays I listed as being special, the message of the song is just perfect.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Why Are You Here ?

It is fun to show up at work on a day people are not expecting to see you, especially when it has been many months since you have worked on that day of the week ...

The reactions you get from people are always fun:
 - Is it Tuesday yet?
 - Why are you here?
 - Is my calendar off?
 - Uh oh.  Who's in trouble?
 - Wait ... do you have a meeting or something?
 - No seriously ... WHY are you here?!

For the past so-many-years-I-lost-track-of-them I have worked a Tuesday through Saturday schedule at Progressive.  I love the days and hours (I work four 9-hour days with one 4-hour day in the middle of them) and especially the two-day weekend (Sunday-Monday).  The added bonus is that everyone else works Mondays so I am free to run errands without nearly as much traffic as I would have on a Saturday.  I have gotten very used to working this schedule, and most people who work near me have gotten used to me NOT being at work on Mondays.  The above reactions were comments I actually heard at some point today.  Very fun indeed!

Song Of The Day:
Once again we were blessed with more rain today, albeit less than we've had in the past few weeks.  I'm still loving the rain and Madonna seems to enjoy it as well in her "Rain" song.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Best Laid Plans?

Some days, nothing goes right despite your best planning efforts.  As with anything else in life, your reaction to the situation you find yourself in is more important than the circumstances.  Those who can roll with the punches are able to enjoy life more, even if some of them are quite heavy blows.

All this rain we have been having lately led to the basement flooding tonight at my brother's townhome.  Truly this is nothing compared to the loss of homes and lives that has happened as a result of these storms, but it is a big deal for him as this is the first home he has ever owned.  It also interrupted our plans for a family game night (to celebrate my birthday) this evening, which is even less important in the grand scheme of things.

Now reflecting back on my statement above about a person's reaction to these kinds of situations, I found it very interesting how certain people reacted and what it told me about their personalities.  Some reacted with anger; anger at anyone and anything.  Some dropped everything else to immediately help.  Some seemed to want to pretend nothing was going on and wanted others to do the same.  And others just smiled and went to work.

I believe we all lose our sense of priority sometimes, and we allow little things to seem much bigger and more important than they actually are.  But then life is made up of hundreds of those little things so it is important also to remember to look for patterns so you can reasonably plan for the future.

Song Of The Day:
I was inspired by the efforts of some of my family members who were quick to offer help when this situation arose.  In their honor, reflect on the words in the song "Umbrella" by Rihanna.  It is nice to know that there are always those who will share their umbrella with us when life is raining.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

When Did We Get An Arcade ?

Taking a short break from the monotony of auditing phone calls, a peer and I ventured into one of our "break rooms" here at work.  As it turns out, there is more than just the foosball and air hockey tables ... there is an arcade game machine with 80 different classic arcade games programmed on it.


I especially enjoyed playing Burger Time, which I was still not very good at but thoroughly enjoyed playing!

Song Of The Day:
The rain continues, which is just great for my water bill and our watershed here in Colorado Springs.  Not so great for flooding thought.  So please enjoy "Can You Stand The Rain?" by Boyz II Men.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Why Do Adults Just Sit Around And Talk All The Time ?

Jordan and Erin Case
(ain't they a cute couple?!)
I noticed this evening, when my brother Jordan and his wife Erin came over to "play games", that we never got around to playing a game.   Instead, we just sat and chatted on a variety of subjects.   I wasn't mad that we didn't play a game and I don't think anyone else was bothered either, but it made me wonder the title question of this blog post.

From the perspective of a child, getting together to "play" or "hang out" would not just involve sitting around and talking.  I can just see my children (who were in bed long before us "adults" finally called it a night) asking themselves what we adults were doing for hours on end.  I remember what it was like to be a kid and especially at family reunions I remember wondering how these "old people" could just sit around and talk for hours.

Only now do I appreciate the enjoyment that can come from good conversation with great company.  Sharing memories, experiences, thoughts and opinions on a variety of subjects can be stimulating and very entertaining.  I believe this comes from the connection that is established when you find that your opinions or experiences are similar to others of the human race.  Despite different circumstances, we often share common core beliefs and it is rewarding for the soul when we support one another in those values.

So you kids who think talking for hours is just for old people, I've got news for you: one day, maybe when you're old, you will appreciate time spent with family and friends doing nothing more than talking and listening to one another.
We should all be so lucky!

Song Of The Day:
Once again, the rains came this evening, saturating my lawn and continuing to wreak havoc on already flooded areas.  When I saw a beautiful rainbow, it made me think of the song "Rainbow Connection" and this version is performed by Weezer feat. Hayley Williams.  I've always loved this song and seeing a rainbow reminds me of another reason I love rainstorms.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

So, What Now ?

Being a "Clear The To Do List" person is a blessing and a curse.

The blessing is that you get lots of things done.  People around you begin to recognize all that hard work and usually praise your efficiency.  There is a sense of satisfaction in knowing your productivity is so high.  Any fears that you might be considered a lazy person are ridiculous.  Give the task to yourself and everyone knows it will get done, and done right!

The curse is that it becomes nearly impossible to "just relax."  Because you perform best when there is a list of things to get done, when the tables are turned and there is theoretically nothing to do (because the current list is finished) then you are lost.  This also limits your ability to stop and smell the roses or in other words, enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Stole this from Google Maps ... it's a good "Before" picture of the house
And here's an "After" picture from close to the same angle
(what you can't see are the concrete walkways and tree ring)
Having finally *finished the landscaping for our front yard (which has been a full six-month project comprised of more steps than I have time to recount), I find myself unable to just sit and enjoy the new yard.  I'm asking myself "What's next?" and the logical answer is to create a new "To Do List."
*The sprinkler manifold and drainage area next to it still need to be covered with landscape fabric and rocked.  This includes digging some sort of french drain for the downspout.

So instead of just taking a break to enjoy our new front yard, here's a short list of projects or things I need to work on now:
 - Fix the back of the couch in the movie room
 - Fix the garage door keypad
 - Rearrange items in the garage (hang bikes and other summer items)
 - Clean out and organize the game room area in the basement
 - Switch out Josh Jr's bed (he has the extra queen sized "guest" bed and wants a regular twin bed so he doesn't have to give up his room when friends come to visit)
 - Move Brooklyn out of the Bunkhouse to her own room upstairs (she will be the recipient of the aforementioned queen-sized bed)
 - Fix the wall and carpet from Ben's room
 - Tile the floor outside the basement shower
 - Re-paint the lower wall in the office
 - Dig out the backyard sprinkler heads
 - Begin building the retaining wall in the backyard
 - Strip the old paint and re-paint the posts on the gazebo

There are probably 100 or more other projects on my long-term To Do List, but these are ones I hope to finish before the cold of winter sets in.  Looking at the list, I am beginning to rethink the value of being a 'Clear the To Do List' person.  :)

Song Of The Day:
Once again we were blessed with rain today so I have selected another rain-themed song.  It's time to get your country music on with "Rain Is A Good Thing" by Luke Bryan.  In relation to this post, rain is a good thing to force me to relax, since it limits my ability to do many of the items on my next To Do list.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Could My Timing Have Been Any Better ?

This week is turning into a rain-themed set of blog posts ... and I love it!

Although I consider myself an optimist, I generally plan for the worst and expect a lot less than "great" things.  This allows me to be disappointed much less, but remain positive and grateful when "great" things happen.

Freshly cut sod (about 22 rolls short)
When I exhausted myself this past week and weekend with the intent to finish the front yard landscaping before the predicted rains came this week, I never actually believed we would get this much moisture.  I knew some rain would fall, but I was realistically hopeful for two or three days of precipitation this week.  And we've already achieved that expectation!

I know I shared this photo before
but I love the way my grass looks
after rain or watering!
And the forecast is calling for rain all the way through Sunday to boot!  I could not be happier with the timing of getting my new sod laid.  It makes all the back-breaking labor and dripping sweat in the heat of mid-day sun worth it!  It would be impossible for me to convey my gratitude to Mother Nature (working in harmony with our Heavenly Father of course) for the help in watering my lawn.

Separate from my own selfish desires, this water is helping to build up our watershed and reservoirs.  I am grateful for that, but also mindful of areas that are now beginning to flood.  I am hopeful this blessing does not become a curse for too many others if too much rain is received.

Song Of The Day:
My mom will tell you stories of my love of music from before I can remember them.  Apparently I had great taste even as a child because "I Love A Rainy Night" by Eddie Rabbitt was one of those favorites.  It is still a great tune that puts a smile on my face.  The lyrics "Showers wash all my cares away.  I wake up to a sunny day!" are so accurate!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

You Walked To Where ?

My wife and I have been taking advantage of the warm weather all summer long by going on walks in the evening hours.  We are unable to go every day, but at least 3 times a week we have left our children under the watchful care of Josh Jr (13 years old and a darn good "babysitter") and headed out for some exercise and alone time as a couple.

The conversations we engage in have taken many forms and the walks vary in distance, but we are always refreshed and renewed afterward.  More often than not, Karen decides the route and the length of the walk.  About a week ago, we decided to walk to YoYogurt (off Powers and Stetson Hills for those in Colorado Springs).  This was the longest walk we've ever gone on, but it was great!  I know Karen's legs were exhausted after the looooong walk, but it was broken up nicely with a huge cup of frozen yogurt delight.

Methinks we will walk this route again when the rainy weather slows again.

Our house (B) to YoYogurt (A) is 1.9 miles ...
so pretty much a 4-mile round-trip walk

Song Of The Day:
Another day, another rainstorm that saturated my new sod.  :)  And in honor of this, please enjoy the classic Eurythmics tune "Here Comes The Rain Again"  Although the tune is melancholy, I was nothing but HAPPY that the rain came again!


Monday, September 9, 2013

How Am I Short ?

Short post today because it's a picture blog.  Below are the before and after pictures from the activities today ... dirt and fertilizer spread, sprinklers hooked up and running, and sod laid down in our park-sized front yard!

BEFORE (fertilized dirt pile not spread yet)
DURING (fertilized dirt now spread - different view)

AFTER (sod installed - original view)

The title of the post is in reference to the amount of sod I ordered.  After much discussion and measuring (once we realized we were nearly 250 square feet short on sod), the error in my initial math became very clear.  Somehow I forgot that the front easement is just as long as the rest of the yard.  I had calculated it at half the length, which accounted for the whole error.

HUGE thanks to my brothers-in-law Brian L and Rick L for their hard work in the yard.  Brian even took my dad in a rush to go and pick up 21 more rolls of sod (how *convenient was it that Brian's van already had the seats taken out?!)  Their backs and arms and whole bodies must be sore, but my yard looks excellent!  Thanks also to my sons Josh Jr and Ben, as well as my nephew Daniel for their help too.

And here is one more "after" picture of the "finished" front yard.  I took several photos of the yard before (with rocks and weeds and general not-looking-good type landscaping) but I cannot seem to find them on our computer.  :(

Song Of The Day:
There is no more appropriate song today, with new sod in the yard, than "I Wish It Would Rain Down" by Phil Collins.  I would be most grateful to Mother Nature if she would see fit to rain down on my new sod and help it take root.  It's a bit late in the year to get sod in, but with the right moisture we should be just fine (if the cold temperatures could hold off for another 4-6 weeks that would be icing on the cake!)


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Why Do We Fast ?

Last Sunday I taught the combined lesson for our Young Men.  The subject was fasting and the reasons we fast, as well as the benefits that come from this.  The Spirit was very strong during the lesson, which was almost assuredly due to the comments made from the young men and some of the adult leaders.  I am hopeful that my personal testimony helped convey my belief to these boys about the power of fasting when coupled with prayer and done properly.  For my blog post today, I wanted to capture my initial testimony-building experience with fasting.  I recounted another experience with the class, but this was the precursor I didn't have time to share.

While serving as a missionary in Los Angeles, CA for The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints, I was assigned a companion (missionaries always serve in pairs and these are called companionships) who had limited mental capacity.  He was book smart and capable of taking care of himself just fine, but his street smarts and social capacity were minimal at best.  I was apprehensive about working with this young man, but the Sunday before he came to my area I fasted and prayed for help in knowing how to work with him and utilize his unique strengths.  My efforts were rewarded with an overwhelming feeling of just be his friend.  So I did.  And as our first few weeks went on together I received other promptings at appropriate times.
 - Assign him a task he will be challenged to complete, but nothing too complicated.  I put him in charge of mapping our bus routes to various appointments.  This led to missing a few appointments initially, but the smile on his face as he got better and better was such a blessing!
 - Assign him specific portions of lessons to teach investigators.  He had a great understanding of the Gospel, but putting that into words in any orderly fashion was nearly impossible.  So I assigned him specific parts of lessons ahead of time and asked him to share his thoughts.  He stumbled a lot to begin with but eventually got comfortable enough to cover whole sections of the lessons.
 - Do acts of service for him.  I helped him shine his shoes.  I gave him a haircut.  I made breakfast for him a few times (he mostly at plain oatmeal because he didn't know how to cook).  I taught him how to make other simple meals.  We played chess on our P-day (personal day) instead of basketball or soccer with the other companionships (he was not big into sports).  Eventually, we started seeking extra service for others in the ward and other missionaries.  He loved that!

The follow-up to this story was a meeting I had with our Mission President about 6 weeks into my time with this Elder.  Most one-on-one meetings with President Lebaron followed a similar business-like format.  But this one was different and it will always stick with me.  I walked into his makeshift office (a room in the local church) prepared to shake his hand, sit down, and answer a series of very direct, interrogative-type questions.  Instead, he got up, walked around his temporary desk and just grabbed me in the biggest bear hug I'd ever had.  He was sobbing.  He just kept repeating "Thank you.  Thank you so much.  You have no idea what you've done.  Thank you."  It was a little awkward but felt great.  After a few minutes, he released me and asked me to sit down.  There were no questions.  There was no let's talk about your accountability and personal progess.  In fact, I said almost nothing for the next 5 minutes as he recounted for me why he was so emotional.

Apparently, this Elder had really been struggling.  In his previous conversations with our Mission President he had begun to question if he should be serving a mission in the first place.  He knew he was incapable of doing much of what missionaries were asked to do.  He felt like a burden on his companions.  He was not feeling loved or worthy of his calling.  President Lebaron went on to say that he had just met with this Elder before inviting me in.  His whole countenance had changed.  Typically quiet and looking at the floor during these meetings, this Elder was looking the President straight in the eye and would not stop talking about all the great things we were doing as a companionship.  He recounted dozens of acts of service I had done for him, including things I did not consider to be service but just common courtesy.  He told the President that he was teaching lessons and that he was responsible for our bus routes.  All President could do was sit and listen, holding back tears of gratitude.  He thanked the Elder for his service and ushered him out.  He then took a few minutes to try and compose himself before inviting me in.

One addendum to this story ... I was only able to work with this Elder for a few more weeks.  At the next transfer, I was called to serve as a District Leader in another part of the mission.  And this Elder was called to be a Senior Companion in our area.  This may not seem like much, but this Elder had not been given the responsibility of being the Senior Companion in his nearly 20 months on his mission.  I still remember the phone call when he found out.  His face went white with fear.  He told me he didn't think this was a good idea and that he was certain he would mess up.  We talked about it and then agreed to pray and fast the coming Sunday, to ask for him to have strength to lead his new companion.  I will never forget that feeling or experience.  He finished his mission as a Senior Companion and President Lebaron always filled me in on his success whenever I saw him.

So why do we fast?  Because our Heavenly Father wants to help us.  And sometimes, He just needs to see how much we are willing to do to earn His help.  Believe me though, when we put forth the effort, He will return that tenfold!  I will forever be grateful for this experience with fasting!

Song Of The Day:
Here is a great missionary-themed video and song by InsideOut acapella.  The tune is "Army Of Helaman" and I apologize for the poor audio quality.
For non-Mormons out there, a little clarity on the song title reference may be useful.  In the Book Of Mormon there is a story of young men who went to war in place of their fathers because their parents had made an oath not to fight ever again.  This army, led by a man named Helaman, fought more bravely than any other army, and because of their faith in God to protect them, none of these 2,000 young men died in any of the battles they fought in.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

How Could The Time Change ?

At just before 7:30am this morning, I dropped off my oldest son at the church, which was to be the meeting place for people helping with a fellow scout's Eagle Project.  There was NO ONE there.  In fact, no one showed up until about 10 minutes before 8:00am.  I know this because my son texted me at that time to let me know people were finally there.

A little background:
Yesterday evening around 8:00pm, I received a call from the very scout whose Eagle Project this activity is for.  He reminded me of the project, confirmed that Josh Jr would be able to help, and informed me that we would be meeting at the church at 7:30am.

Fast forward back to the present time ... my son asked the scout why they were "late" to which the young man responded "Oh yeah, the time changed to 7:45am."

I'm calling BS!

You're telling me that after 8:00pm the night before something came up and the meeting time needed to be pushed back by 15 minutes?!

I.  Don't.  Think.  So.

The lesson to be learned here (and the message I provided to my boys, who will be doing their own Eagle Scout projects in the next few years), was this:
Be EARLY when you are in charge.

I explained to my sons that it is respectful of others when you are "early" for events that you are responsible for.  It is respectful any time to be early, but it should just be common practice to be plenty early when you are in charge.  I believe this scout and his father should have been there at least 20-30 minutes before others were scheduled to show up.  This is, after all, the HIGHEST achievement in Boy Scouts.  The least you can do is take it very seriously.

I can promise you that my sons WILL BE early for their Eagle Scout projects.  First ones there, last ones to leave.

Song Of The Day:
One of my favorite tunes from the 80's is by Howard Jones.  The song "No One Is To Blame" isn't really about people not taking responsibility, but it applies to the concept of this post.  Better to be early and BE PREPARED (the scout motto) when you are in charge than pretend that no one is to blame.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Did I Bite Off Too Much ?

Monday was Labor Day, which meant most Americans had the day off from work.  This is great for most people, but sometimes annoying for me ... because I always have Mondays off.  So I was off work today, Friday, as a "comp day" for the holiday and I think I scheduled way too much for myself today!

These plans below seemed reasonable when I made them, but at 7:30pm tonight, as I write this, I am convinced I am an idiot.  So much for this being a "vacation" day from "labor."  Quite the opposite in fact.

Drop off the U-Haul trailer.
Pick up the rototiller and trailer.
Rototill the front yard.
Return the tiller and trailer.
Level the dirt in the front yard.
Dig trenches for the front easement sprinkler system.
Purchase needed items for the front sprinklers.
Install the front sprinkler system.
Bury the lines for the front sprinklers.
Re-level the front easement dirt area.
Connect the front easement sprinkler line to the manifold.
Weed the edges of the front yard.

It's a bad sign when your
feet have dirt stains
under your socks!
Move landscaping items to the shed.
Sweep out the garage.
Sweep off the front driveway.
Sweep off the sidewalk in front of our house.

On the plus side:
I got all but the items listed in BLUE above done.
On the minus side:
I can't feel anything below my neck.
On the "didn't you learn anything from today" side:
Fertilized topsoil is being delivered on Monday morning
and then sod is being delivered Monday afternoon.

Song Of The Day:
The song "Promises, Promises" by Naked Eyes was on my MP3 player today and I felt it would be a fitting tune for the day.  When I set goals for myself (To Do Lists included) I am essentially making a promise to myself to get something done.  Like the lyrics in the song I never had a doubt, in the beginning when making the promises to myself.  And then later, when I cannot complete the list, I think why do I believe I could get this all done!


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wait, They Charge You ?

Sometimes it can be difficult to explain things to a child.  There are certain concepts that, from the mind of a child, make virtually no sense.

Here's an example from today:
After spending about 4 hours in the hot sun (loading a 6 x 12 U-Haul trailer with the mostly dead sod from my front yard), my oldest sons got home from school.  After they ate a snack and checked in with mom, they joined me on a ride to Don's Garden Center.  This was the location I had chosen to "dump" the dead sod, because they charge a very low price for that amount of recyclable yard waste.

During the drive there I explained how I would be paying the owners of this shop for the privilege of giving them our sod.  This concept was easily understood until I explained that the owners will mulch and break down the dead sod, turning it into fill dirt and other fertilizer base.

Ben asked me "Oh, so then they give you that back for the yard?"

Well, no.  They keep it.

Josh Jr then asked "What do they do with it then?"

They sell it to people who need fill dirt or fertilizer.

Ben asked "So then they give you the money when they sell it?"

Well, no.  They keep that money.

At this point, both boys seemed angry.  The line of thinking was So they charge you to give them something that they are going to charge someone else to take?

The concept of time (months) and space (a place to keep all this stuff) were lost on my well-intentioned and reasonable boys.  It only got worse when they realized we would be unloading the whole trailer ourselves.
They don't even help you unload it?!

This is the front yard after the sod was cut and piled up.
Note the "crescent rolls" on the left.  Those were HEAVY!
Song Of The Day:
It's a TbT (throwback Thursday) so here is "True" by Spandau Ballet.  Despite the disbelief of my sons, what I was telling them was true.  Sometimes it is hard to understand things, but that doesn't make them any less true.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How Are YOU Going To Complain ?

While driving to work this morning, the traffic on Powers Blvd was backed up from Research Pkwy all the way back to the Woodmen Rd overpass.  There is a third lane for about 1/3 of a mile just past the overpass, but that is supposed to be for merging traffic coming from Woodmen Rd.

As typically happens, some drivers began to move into that third lane, presumably because wherever they are headed is more important than the rest of us who are patiently waiting in traffic.  When this happens once or twice during a long wait, I am fine to just sit there, but when I see dozens of cars "jumping the line" I feel compelled to do something.  My typical "move" is to pull out into that lane, without actually leaving my current place in line.  I will sit 2/3 of my car in that extra lane, and 1/3 of my car just waiting in line.  Almost always, the person immediately behind me will recognize what I am doing and allow me back into my lane as soon as the extra lane fully disappears.

This morning, some insensitive I-really-AM-more-important-than-you guy (in a sporty BMW) decided that he deserved to get around me, even if there wasn't any room.  He did not even slow down as he came racing up behind me, and I am sure he didn't expect me to pull further out into that extra lane.  In fact, I know he didn't because he honked his horn loudly as he swerved to fly past me.  Perhaps he is unaware that his other option was to apply his brakes and get in line like the rest of us.

But it got me to thinking the title of this blog post.  Who is he going to complain to about the "jerk driver" (a.k.a. Me) who "cut him off" this morning?  How is that story going to go over well?  What people is he going to find that will empathize with him for the rough start to his day?

Song Of The Day:
If you can find it, the song "It's Better Than That" by Trout Fishing In America would be perfect for this post.  Not because adults should be jerks, but because adults who act appropriately get to enjoy being grown up, and it is kinda fun.
If not, might be a good chance to use "International Harvester" country song (because the video is pretty good).


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Where Is That Wind Coming From ?

This is a post specifically tailored to my co-workers at Progressive.  Those who don't work in our building are free to read on, but I can't promise you'll be able to relate as well.

Has anyone else noticed that the hallway between the South Building and the annex / cafeteria / atrium area is like a wind tunnel?

In the office where I work, we have two main buildings that are connected by a third building or annex.  As you walk down the hallway toward the annex there begins to be a draft of air pulling you toward the annex doors / entry way.  This is an interesting phenomenon to me.  I am certain there is an easy mechanical explanation to this (I know there is a forced air heating/cooling system in both of the main buildings, so logic suggests that some of that air would make its way to the annex).

I just think it also makes for a really cool "I'm in a music video" kind of windblown hair look for the ladies in our office.  As long as you're walking away from the annex that is.  :)

Song Of The Day:
Could the song today be anything other than "Windy" by The Association?  I think not.  Another great band name too!  Except this one sounds like the title of a John Grisham or Stephen King book.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Do You Know What I Like About Your Hands ?

Catalina, age 6, asked this question to my mom (a.k.a. Grandma Julie) when she was hanging out with her recently.

The conversation, as best as my mom could recollect, went like this:

Catalina:  Hey Grandma, do you know what I like about your hands?
          Grandma Julie:  No sweetie, what do you like about my hands?
Catalina:  (grabs my mom's hands)  They look like cheese pizza!
          Grandma Julie:  (silence)

Gotta love the honesty and unique perspective from a child!  :)

Song Of The Day:
I've been looking for a great post to try and connect the song "I Believe" by the UW MadHatters to.  I believe this is as good a post as any.  I believe that children can teach us how to not take life so seriously.  I believe kids simply try to find joy in whatever situation they are in.  I believe kids make us laugh because they just are instead of censoring themselves.  I believe my mom's hands do kinda look like cheese pizza but I believe she was a very good sport about it.  Thanks for being such a great Grandma to my kids mom!


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fantasy Football Part 2 - The Big Mistake ?

I feel a disclaimer is deserved here at the very start of this post.  I only set up a fantasy football league because my wife asked me to.  Okay, so she never really asked but she mentioned multiple times that she would love to play fantasy football this year.  I hate being a commissioner of a fantasy football league ... but I love my wife more than that, so there you have it.

The FF league commisioner has the responsibility to set everything up for the league.  This includes the draft (date and time, etc.), the positions being filled on each team, the participants invited into the league to manage a team, and, of course, the point settings.

It is with that last item that I made a MAJOR mistake.

Without getting too technical, there is supposed to be a balance in possible points in most FF leagues.  Offensive players typically generate the most points (QBs, RBs, WRs, and a few very talented TEs).  Defenses or Defensive players and Kickers generate fewer points, but enough to tip the close games one way or another if you played the right people.  I wanted to add in points for Special Teams players, specifically for those men who risk life and limb to return punts or kickoffs.  Those are some of the most exciting plays and players to watch in a football game, so why not get some points for having one or two of those people on your FF team?

Somehow I set up "Return Yards" with an exceptionally high value (1 point for every 5 yards).  This has caused players who only do ONE thing to generate more points than any other position player.  Like, WAY more points.  So much so, that my oldest son dropped many of his drafted players for "no name" return men, because they were projected to earn twice as many points.  It's not his fault for taking full advantage of the point settings.  It is mine.

Sadly, there is no way to adjust these point settings once the draft is done, so I am going to have to figure out a way to create an honor system in our league to keep any one player from having a "stacked" team filled with kick returners.

Song Of The Day:
Every year with Fantasy Football, I believe every participant is a "King Of Wishful Thinking" about their team, players, and match-ups.  This is a great song by Go West.  Enjoy it!